Coming into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was acknowledged by most hockey experts Chicago was not quite as good as the past and St. Louis was better and more stable than before.
What nobody knew for sure was how they would play out in a rink, as it was a given the Blackhawks pedigree would carry considerable weight and most wondered if the Blues could overcome themselves along with their divisional opponent.
At the moment, the answers are coming into focus and you don’t need to ask question to the Amazon Echo. St. Louis has continually been under adversity the past three matchups and overcome what has been thrown at them and are on the brink to officially dethrone the Stanley Cup champions.
Considering this is the Blackhawks, with 149-105 lead in shots in the series, you would think they are up 3-1 in the series. But this is not the case. Chicago has been firing at goalie Brian Elliott like an automatic weapon (86 shots last two games), with precious little to show for it. The difference is the Hawks are not getting the quality of shots they are used to, especially close to the St. Louis goal and have decided to keep firing form distance, hoping to wear Elliott down with all the attempts.
Defensively, netminder Cory Crawford has not been as sharp as Game 1 and the Chicago blueliners who were a trifle suspect beyond the first few defensemen and have been exposed. In the last six years, Chicago just has not given up leads, especially at the United Center, yet it has happened in the past two games.
With Andrew Shaw suspended, the task only gets harder. The Blackhawks are going to have to take more chances on offense and defense to potentially take St. Louis out of comfort zone, but that comes with risk also. However, down 3-1 on the road, what is there for Chicago to lose?
After a couple of shaky calls that went against the Blues in Game 2 loss to Chicago, to a man the St. Louis players said this time they would not be bothered and were looking ahead.
While this was probably true on some level, the Blues players also knew the Blackhawks this season were not definitely better than them. They came from behind in Game 3 in the third period to win and overcome 2-1 deficit Tuesday, when it appeared the Hawks with the throng of 22,000 strong was going to even the series.
Elliott has been special for the Blues, but it has been the entire team which has St. Louis at the door step of winning their first playoff series in four years. Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk and David Backes have all done their parts, but so has lesser known’s Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko, all who have made contributions.
St. Louis deserves to be where they are, they just have to close the deal.
What to Expect and Winner
The old story of the last victory in a series is the hardest and this sets up to be the case for St. Louis given the factors. Chicago has been down this road before when it trailed Detroit 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals in 2013, won Game 7 in overtime and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
This has a different feel about it. St. Louis has taken the Blackhawks best shot and gotten up each time. They are playing tougher, are not fazed what comes at them and quite possibly even created some doubts in the heads of Chicago players on why they are not cracking like the past.
For NHL picks going to play St. Louis to take down Chicago, seeing they are 12-3 off a road win scoring four or more goals this season and conclude series in much shorter time than anticipated.
Free Pick – St. Louis wins